Larry Nelson made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole Saturday for a 4-under 67 and a one-stroke lead over Jay Don Blake, Steve Lowery and Chien Soon Lu in the AT&T Championship, the Champions Tour’s final full-field event of the year.
The 63-year-old Nelson, who won the last of his 19 Champions Tour titles in 2004, rebounded on 18 after lipping out a 4-footer and settling for bogey on No. 17. He had a 10-under 132 total on the Oak Hills Country Club course in the event’s final year at the A.J. Tillinghast-designed layout.
“I got through,” Nelson said. “I was pleasantly surprised. To have a chance to win and have the lead at my age, it’s terrific.”
Blake shot a 64, his best round on the 50-and-over tour. Lowery had a 67, and Lu shot a 68.
John Cook, the 2007 and 2008 winner, had a 69 to join Jeff Sluman (66), Rod Spittle (68) and Mark Wiebe (69) at 8 under. Olin Browne (67) was 7 under, and Charles Schwab Cup leader Bernhard Langer (67) was 6 under. Hale Irwin, who matched his age Friday with a 65 for a share of the first-round lead, also was 6 under after a 71.
Blake, third at Carnoustie in the Senior British Open, birdied the first hole and kept control at No. 2 with a scrambling par when he lofted a high chip to 3 feet.
“It was one of those unbelievable, Houdini pars,” Blake said. “That right there can help a round continue after birdie on the first hole.”
Blake had the lead temporarily at 10 under with four back-nine birdies, but he bogeyed 17 when he caught a fluffy lie from the rough and left his approach short in a bunker.
Lowery, playing in his second Champions Tour event, was 21st last week at The Woodlands in his debut. He made 10 cuts in 24 starts on the PGA Tour this year.
“I was seeing some positive things,” Lowery said. “I felt I was on the upswing coming here.”
Both of his birdies on the back nine came when he reached par 5s in two.
Kenny Perry, who made his Champions Tour debut along with Lowery last week, was 12 strokes back at 3 over after a 70.